When the Vancouver Canucks wrapped up the Northwest division title last week, hardly anybody cared. Some had bigger goals in mind while others dismissed the Canucks winning the worst division in hockey as an accomplishment akin to walking down the block without tripping and falling on your face.
Still, it’s an accomplishment that highlights the stunning success Alain Vigneault has enjoyed behind the Canucks bench.
Yet the rumbles of discontent amongst the fanbase surrounding the coach persist.
It seems for every couple of fans who believe Vigneault is Mike Babcock, there’s a fan who insists he’s Michel Therrien.
After being promoted from the Manitoba Moose in 2006-2007, Vigneault promptly set a franchise record for wins in a season (thanks largely to shootout wins) and won the Jack Adams award (thanks largely to Roberto Luongo).
2007-2008 of course was the fateful year everyone in Vancouver with half a brain, and even those without, could see that the Canucks needed to improve the top six and add more goals in the offseason. Dave Nonis decided not to do a single thing and it cost him his job as the Canucks missed the playoffs.
As Mike Gillis took the helm, many wondered if Alain Vigneault was capable of being anything more than a defense-first offensively-starved coach as if somehow squeezing more than 200 goals out of a top six that included Taylor Pyatt, an injured Brendan Morrison, and a disinterested Markus Naslund was a shortcoming.
After a couple of interviews, Mike Gillis decided to retain Alain Vigneault to run his more offensively-orientated system.
Did a lot of fans think this was a mistake at the time? Yup.
Yet despite losing Morrison and Naslund and getting nothing more in new toys than Steve Bernier and Pavol Demitra, Vigneault led the Canucks back to the top of the Northwest and again into the second round of the playoffs where they met the Chicago Blackhawks for the first time.
09-10 was more of the same, division title but out in the second round to the Hawks, except of course Henrik won his scoring title.
And I shouldn’t have to tell you about last year.
That’s a lot of team success. In five years behind the bench, that’s four division titles, one President’s Trophy, one Clarence S Campbell Bowl, and six rounds of playoff wins.
To float the idea that AV is the most successful coach in Canucks history is like saying that Roberto Luongo is the best goaltender or Mike Gillis is the best GM or the Sedins are the best pair of Swedish twins the franchise has ever had. Duh.
And yet…the knifes remain if this team stumbles a bit. We saw it after the consecutive losses to the Hawks, during every regular season losing skid, after the Finals, and probably even after Game 7 last year against Chicago.
People still don’t trust AV.
He gets outcoached, he can’t build lines, he juggles too much, the room has lost him, whatever.
This is the grass is greener syndrome that plagues Vancouver that also insists Luongo should be dumped at all costs for Schneider. It’s cute really that they don’t realize that very same attitude will cause them to turn on their new shiny toy just as quick as the last one.
It’s the same attitude that reared its head when poor Cody Hodgson wasn’t getting enough ice time for his proper development which was absolutely crazy because it’s not like Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Chris Tanev, Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen, Mason Raymond, Henrik Sedin, or Daniel Sedin have ever seen their games grow under AV, many of whom also had him as a coach in Manitoba. Nope.
What’s going on? It’s the “What have you done for me in the last 10 seconds?” infantile mentality of this city vs Alain Vigneault’s incredibly slow and patient process.
But do you know why you can say as a Canucks fan that the regular season and the first three rounds of the playoffs are meaningless now and that the Stanley Cup is the only thing that will please you?
Because Alain Vigneault lets you.
Ho hum, just another division crown for AV